- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

All too content to endorse the sorriest aspects of pop culture while pretending to mock them, "Josie and the Pussycats" accentuates the noisy, crass and hypocritical. If youre not in the mood for a blatant tease, watching the movie without sound is probably a happier option and will be available once the video edition is in circulation.
If obliged to pay closer attention, the most satisfying consolation may be the presence of the young actress Rachael Leigh Cook, who enhances good impressions left earlier this year in "Get Carter" and "Blow Dry" while impersonating Josie, an aspiring girl rocker.
Miss Cook seems to have command of a sincerity and delicacy that tend to add emotional grace notes in daunting or stupefying circumstances. The slap-happy manipulators of "Josie" may not have intended them, but theyre lucky to possess them.
The title characters derive from Archie Comics. While I remain fond of the original high school cronies, I had ceased to keep tabs on their ageless antics by the time Josie and her pals were added in comics of the early 1960s. A decade or so later they were transposed to a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.
The disinclination of Hollywood to originate material when even marginal "name" value adheres to something or other in the pop inventory explains the belated emergence of a live-action farce, updating Josie to an MTV present.
Supposedly residents of idyllic, mythical Riverdale, Archies hometown, Josie and Melody (Tara Reid) and Val (Rosario Dawson) are struggling to break through as a rock trio. They seem to have gotten as far as weekend gigs at a local bowling alley. (If this gig doesnt work out, maybe TVs Ed can take pity on their aspirations.)
A suspicious break vaults Josie and friends to the threshold of fame and fortune in less than a week. Alan Cumming as Wyatt Frame, a nefarious manager, selects them as the emergency replacement for Dujour, a popular boys group relegated to the ash heap.
Wyatt and his mentor, Mega Records mogul Fiona (Parker Posey at her most effusive and inept), enjoy the power of life and death over pop trends, methodically contrived and imposed on a vast public by brainwashing devices of various kinds.
Dujour, having gotten a trifle big for its britches, is scuttled. Josie and the Pussycats, arbitrarily available and susceptible, get the sinister, preposterous Mega buildup, which almost but not quite destroys the girls fundamental decency and integrity.
This fairy tale evidently obliges the writing-directing team of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, which debuted a year ago with the high school party farce "Cant Hardly Wait," to incorporate product plugs with gaily promiscuous abandon.
Im not sure any movie has ever displayed a greater number of them.
The better, presumably, to illustrate how some commodities, notably Josie and the Pussycats, cant be bought and sold on the altar of commercialism.
Their juggling act may qualify the filmmakers as political subversives in a pinch without disturbing their credentials as blithe pitchmen in the everyday pursuit of a Hollywood career.
But what is life if not a comedy of contradictions? "Josie and the Pussycats" may end up rivaling "The Matrix" as a thesis topic among contemporary film scholars attracted to deep-dish allegorical speculation.
Maybe Kaplan & Elfont can endow a chair to top off the gag.

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